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‘War on Everyone’ SXSW Review: This One’s For You, Misanthropic, Bitter Assholes

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | March 24, 2016 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | March 24, 2016 |

Do you want to see a dark comedy that opens with corrupt cops Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena running over a mime? Do I even need to ask you that question? Pretty sure I had you at “Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena.”

Fine. In case you need more information, War on Everyone is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, whose previous films are Calvary and The Guard. Both excellent. Both starring Brendan Gleeson. (If you haven’t seen Calvary, SEE CALVARY. It features Domhnall Gleeson in a small role back when he was kindasorta in the “Take Your Son to Work Day” phase of his career. He plays a serial killer convict and is absolutely chilling.) John Michael McDonagh is, incidentally, the brother of director/playwright Michael McDonagh, the man responsible for Seven Psychopaths and Pajiba favorite In Bruges. I bring that up because if you like the fat people scene in Bruges

…you will probably like War on Everyone, too. The humor is, in a word, “offensive,” with Terry (Skarsgard) and Bob (Pena) making jokes at everyone’s expense. In a SXSW post-screening Q&A, McDonagh described War on Everyone as a sort of revisionist, modern-day Western, and it’s a label that makes sense. Terry and Bob are a send-up of the dick-swingin’, machismo-obsessed cop stereotype, and War on Everyone never shies away from the fact that they are both horrible people. To wit:

The movie lives or dies on Skarsgard and Pena’s chemistry—the plot, shaggy and meandering as it is (there’s some sort of a heist gone wrong and a porn studio and also horses maybe?), basically serving as the framework for them to run around Albuquerque behaving like assholes. Luckily, they’re really good at it, and they have a natural rapport.

Another standout is Caleb Landry Jones as the sleazy, swaggering right-hand man to Theo James’ main villain character. Theo James is… present. He’s better than he is in Allegiant. That’s what I got. Tessa Thompson is also there as The Girl, a role that doesn’t give her a ton to do aside from frolic in skimpy outfits. She and Skarsgard do have a dance number to Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” though, which is pretty sweet. Top that, The Legend of Tarzan.